Journal on Multimodal User Interfaces

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 273–284 | Cite as

Auditory navigation with a tubular acoustic model for interactive distance cues and personalized head-related transfer functions

An auditory target-reaching task
  • Michele GeronazzoEmail author
  • Federico Avanzini
  • Federico Fontana
Original Paper


This paper presents a novel spatial auditory display that combines a virtual environment based on a Digital Waveguide Mesh (DWM) model of a small tubular shape with a binaural rendering system with personalized head-related transfer functions (HRTFs) allowing interactive selection of absolute 3D spatial cues of direction as well as egocentric distance. The tube metaphor in particular minimizes loudness changes with distance, providing mainly direct-to-reverberant and spectral cues. The proposed display was assessed through a target-reaching task where participants explore a 2D virtual map with a pen tablet and hit a sound source (the target) using auditory information only; subjective time to hit and traveled distance were analyzed for three experiments. The first one aimed at assessing the proposed HRTF selection method for personalization and dimensionality of the reaching task, with particular attention to elevation perception; we showed that most subjects performed better when they had to reach a vertically unbounded (2D) rather then an elevated (3D) target. The second experiment analyzed interaction between the tube metaphor and HRTF showing a dominant effect of DWM model over binaural rendering. In the last experiment, participants using absolute distance cues from the tube model performed comparably well to when they could rely on more robust, although relative, intensity cues. These results suggest that participants made proficient use of both binaural and reverberation cues during the task, displayed as part of a coherent 3D sound model, in spite of the known complexity of use of both such cues. HRTF personalization was beneficial for participants who were able to perceive vertical dimension of a virtual sound. Further work is needed to add full physical consistency to the proposed auditory display.


Head-related transfer function Auditory distance rendering Digital waveguide mesh Perceptual model individualization Target-reaching task Human spatial navigation Auditory display 



The Authors are grateful to the volunteers who participated in this study, and to F. Altieri for his support in data collection. This work was supported by the research project PADVA , University of Padova, under Grant No. CPDA135702.


  1. 1.
    Algazi VR, Duda RO, Thompson DM, Avendano C (2001) The CIPIC HRTF database. In: Proc. IEEE Work. Appl. Signal Process., Audio, Acoust., New Paltz, New York, pp 1–4Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Andéol G, Savel S, Guillaume A (2015) Perceptual factors contribute more than acoustical factors to sound localization abilities with virtual sources. Auditory Cogn Neurosci 8:451Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Asano F, Suzuki Y, Sone T (1990) Role of spectral cues in median plane localization. J Acoust Soc Am 88(1):159–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Blauert J (1983) Spatial hearing: the psychophysics of human sound localization. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Boren B, Geronazzo M, Brinkmann F, Choueiri E (2015) Coloration metrics for headphone equalization. In: Proc. of the 21st Int. Conf. on auditory display (ICAD 2015), Graz, pp 29–34Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bronkhorst AW, Houtgast T (1999) Auditory distance perception in rooms. Nature 397:517–520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Campbell D, Palomaki K, Brown G (2005) A matlab simulation of “shoebox” room acoustics for use in research and teaching. Comput Inf Syst 9(3):48Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    De Sena E, Hacihabiboglu H, Cvetkovic Z (2011) Scattering delay network: an interactive reverberator for computer games. In: Audio engineering society conf.: 41st Int. conf.: audio for gamesGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Devallez D, Fontana F, Rocchesso D (2008) Linearizing auditory distance estimates by means of virtual acoustics. Acta Acust United Acust 94(6):813–824CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Fontana F, Rocchesso D (2003) A physics-based approach to the presentation of acoustic depth. In: Proc. Int. Conf. on Auditory Display, Boston, pp 79–82Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Fontana F, Rocchesso D (2008) Auditory distance perception in an acoustic pipe. ACM Trans Appl Percept 5(3):16:1–16:15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Fontana F, Savioja L, Välimäki, V (2001) A modified rectangular waveguide mesh structure with interpolated input and output points. In: Proc. Int. Computer Music Conf., ICMA, La Habana, pp 87–90Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Gardner WG, Martin KD (1995) HRTF measurements of a KEMAR. J Acoust Soc Am 97(6):3907–3908CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Geronazzo M (2014) Mixed structural models for 3D audio in virtual environments. Ph.D. thesis, Information Engineering, PadovaGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Geronazzo M, Avanzini F, Fontana F (2015) Use of personalized binaural audio and interactive distance cues in an auditory goal-reaching task. In: Proc. of the 21st int. conf. on auditory display (ICAD 2015), Graz, pp 73–80Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Geronazzo M, Bedin A, Brayda L, Avanzini F (2014) Multimodal exploration of virtual objects with a spatialized anchor sound. In: Proc. 55th int. conf. audio eng. society, spatial audio, Helsinki, pp 1–8Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Geronazzo M, Bedin A, Brayda L, Campus C, Avanzini F (2016) Interactive spatial sonification for non-visual exploration of virtual maps. Int. J. Hum Comput Stud 85:4–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Geronazzo M, Kleimola J, Majdak P (2015) Personalization support for binaural headphone reproduction in web browsers. In: Proc. 1st Web Audio Conference. ParisGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Geronazzo M, Spagnol S, Bedin A, Avanzini F (2014) Enhancing vertical localization with image-guided selection of non-individual head-related transfer functions. In: IEEE int. conf. on acoustics, speech, and signal processing (ICASSP 2014), Florence, pp 4496–4500Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Huopaniemi J, Savioja L, Karjalainen M (1997) Modeling of reflections and air absorption in acoustical spaces: a digital filter design approach. In: Proc. IEEE workshop on applications of signal processing to audio and acoustics. IEEE, New Paltz, pp 19–22Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Iida K, Ishii Y, Nishioka S (2014) Personalization of head-related transfer functions in the median plane based on the anthropometry of the listener’s pinnae. J Acoust Soc Am 136(1):317–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Katz BFG, Noisternig M (2014) A comparative study of interaural time delay estimation methods. J Acoust Soc Am 135(6):3530–3540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Katz BFG, Parseihian G (2012) Perceptually based head-related transfer function database optimization. J Acoust Soc Am 131(2):EL99–EL105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Kowalczyk K, van Walstijn M (2008) Formulation of locally reacting surfaces in FDTD/K-DWM modelling of acoustic spaces. Acta Acust United Acust 94(6):891–906CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Lu YC, Cooke M, Christensen H (2007) Active binaural distance estimation for dynamic sources. In: Proc. INTERSPEECH, Antwerp, pp 574–577Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Magnusson C, Danielsson H, Rassmus-Gröhn K (2006) Non visual haptic audio tools for virtual environments. In: McGookin D, Brewster S (eds.) Haptic and audio interaction design, no. 4129 in Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer, Berlin, pp 111–120Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Majdak P, Baumgartner R, Laback B (2014) Acoustic and non-acoustic factors in modeling listener-specific performance of sagittal-plane sound localization. Front Psychol 5:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Masiero B, Fels J (2011) Perceptually robust headphone equalization for binaural reproduction. In: 130th AES convention, London, England, pp 1–7Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Middlebrooks JC (1999) Virtual localization improved by scaling nonindividualized external-ear transfer functions in frequency. J Acoust Soci Am 106(3):1493–1510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Moore BC, Glasberg BR, Baer T (1997) A model for the prediction of thresholds, loudness, and partial loudness. J Audio Eng Soc 45(4):224–240Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Neuhoff JG (2001) An adaptive bias in the perception of looming auditory motion. Ecol Psychol 13(2):87–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Parseihian G, Katz BFG, Conan S (2012) Sound effect metaphors for near field distance sonification. In: Proc. int. conf. on auditory display, Atlanta, pp 6–13Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Schönstein D, Katz BFG (2010) Variability in Perceptual Evaluation of HRTFs. In: 128th Convention of the Audio Engineering Society, AES London, 11 pGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Shinn-Cunningham B (2000) Learning reverberation: considerations for spatial auditory displays. In: Proc. int. conf. auditory display (ICAD’00). Atlanta, pp 126–134Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Spagnol S, Geronazzo M, Avanzini F (2013) On the relation between pinna reflection patterns and head-related transfer function features. IEEE Trans Audio Speech Lang Process 21(3):508–519CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Speigle J, Loomis J (1993) Auditory distance perception by translating observers. In: Virtual reality, 1993. Proceedings., IEEE 1993 symposium on research frontiers in, pp 92–99Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Valimaki V, Parker JD, Savioja L, Smith JO, Abel JS (2012) Fifty years of artificial reverberation. Audio Speech Lang Process IEEE Trans 20(5):1421–1448CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Viaud-Delmon I, Warusfel O (2014) From ear to body: the auditory-motor loop in spatial cognition. Front Neurosci 8:283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Wiener JM, Büchner SJ, Hölscher C (2009) Taxonomy of human wayfinding tasks: a knowledge-based approach. Spat Cogn Comput 9(2):152–165Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Zahorik P (2002) Assessing auditory distance perception using virtual acoustics. J Acoust Soc Am 111(4):1832–1846CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Zahorik P (2002) Auditory display of sound source distance. In: Proc. int. conf. on auditory display. KyotoGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Zahorik P (2002) Direct-to-reverberant energy ratio sensitivity. J Acoust Soc Am 112(5):2110–2117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Zahorik P, Brungart DS, Bronkhorst AW (2005) Auditory distance perception in humans: a summary of past and present research. Acta Acust United Acust 91(3):409–420Google Scholar

Copyright information

© SIP 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michele Geronazzo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Federico Avanzini
    • 1
  • Federico Fontana
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Information EngineeringUniversity of PadovaPadovaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Mathematics, Computer Science and PhysicsUniversity of UdineUdineItaly

Personalised recommendations